Album: The Straight Story: Music from the Motion Picture

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Album:

The Straight Story: Music from the Motion Picture

Artist: Angelo Badalamenti
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Label: Windham Hill Records

We’ve come to expect a few things from composer Angelo Badalamenti’s numerous collaborations with David Lynch. His scores for Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, and Blue Velvet all took a smoky jazz-noir aesthetic into the orchestra pit. The results were memorable—and sometimes haunting—just like the films. For The Straight Story—the G-rated (yes, that’s right) tale of an elderly man’s epic journey on a John Deere lawnmower to see his sick brother—we get a different side to both the composer and the director once again. Here the…

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We’ve come to expect a few things from composer Angelo Badalamenti’s numerous collaborations with David Lynch. His scores for Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, and Blue Velvet all took a smoky jazz-noir aesthetic into the orchestra pit. The results were memorable—and sometimes haunting—just like the films. For The Straight Story—the G-rated (yes, that’s right) tale of an elderly man’s epic journey on a John Deere lawnmower to see his sick brother—we get a different side to both the composer and the director once again. Here the orchestrations are atmospheric, but a subtle strain of folk music is evident throughout. “Rose’s Theme” is filled with acoustic guitar finger-picking against a string section, “Alvin’s Theme” has a fiddle mimicking a locomotive, and “Country Waltz” is just that. “Farmland Tour” is the Twin Peaks theme gone sentimental. A hint of nostalgia, a certain Midwestern innocence, and plenty of vast-sounding passages make this the perfect sonic backdrop for a film set in America’s heartland. Just like that setting, it can seem a little repetitive at times, but—as a whole—it’s another memorable effort from Badalamenti. —Jason Verlinde

“Laurens, Iowa” is the opening credits which, in the film, segues from a starfield in motion into a first view of waving corn. Structurally the piece follows the rhythmic flow of Badalamenti’s classic Twin Peaks theme but plays out a longer and far more Melancholy melody. And it is with melancholia that both film and score continue as Alvin’s extraordinary journey is told. The rolling fields at the turn of harvest are a quite beautiful visual metaphor for the getting-to-the-end-of-the-road tale.

They inspired an unprecedented level of intimacy from this long-standing director/composer relationship, with David Lynch’s sound design always erring in favour of Badalamenti’s tear-jerking score. With a guitar ensemble, Country scratch fiddles, and strings, “Rose’s Theme” and “Alvin’s Theme” are unashamedly bittersweet. These motifs re-appear in various solo guises (“Final Miles”) and frequently interweave as a statement of Alvin’s realisation that family is the most important thing in life.

You’re always going to get something spectacular when these two work together, and this is easily their most universally appealing project. —Paul Tonks

Related Works

Film:The Straight Story

The Straight Story

David Lynch

Throughout The Straight Story, 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) gazes calmly at the night sky, as if the stars were reflections of his own memories. Alvin’s eyesight is bad and his daughter (Sissy Spacek) is slightly retarded and unable to drive, so he’s traveling from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin on a riding John Deere lawn mower. It’s slow going, so there’s plenty of time to stop for the night and ponder the cosmos. Alvin’s journeying to visit his ailing brother; they haven’t spoken in years, and it’s time to make peace. Along the…

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